As an adult, it’s easy to forget the things that scared you the most as a child. Those fears that would either freeze your body in place, or make you run like crazy looking for a safe place to hide. As a child I found myself drawn to these feelings. There was a kind of excitement in stimulating my brain to feel fear, and then overcome that terror.
I still remember when I was twelve and one afternoon I went to my friend’s house. He had a PlayStation and his father bought him Resident Evil. (Keep in mind, this is the pre-Internet era, so he probably saw the cap of a man with a gun and thought, “Oh my kid would love this!” without knowing what it was.)
By this time I had a Sega Saturn at home, and I was very familiar with games like Nights in Dreams, Sonic and Panzer Dragoon. I had no idea about a survival horror game. And here we are, inserting the disc into the console and…boom! Our minds were blown!
Right out of the gate, Resident Evil showed me something I hadn’t seen before: live action cinema. Sure, it’s cheesy today, with its hilarious dialogue and over-the-top acting, but back then it was unlike anything you’d seen before. Show me what was possible in games; You can think outside the box by combining live-action filmmaking with video games. The way it blended with the actual game — where we saw a real-life person, and then a character model who was obviously representing the same person — was amazing to me as a kid.
It was a clash of two worlds, but in a good way as these different presentations made the entire organization feel bigger, more modern, and more expansive than if I just used the in-game graphics.
This mix of mediums also made me think about all the skills that go into making video games. You’ll need to learn more about writing, acting, directing, and cameras, as well as the usual game development stuff like programmers, artists, composers, foley artists, etc. I’ve never seen a game with this sense of pure production and spectacle!
Then the game really kicked in and looked completely different than any I’ve played. Once you’re in control of your character, Resident Evil evokes that wonderful sense of mystery. Not sure what’s going on, where to go, or what to do. It’s quiet and strange. Many doors are locked, requiring several different types of keys to unlock, and since the game is so non-linear, it quickly becomes very challenging to know where to go. Even the first room in the game, the hallway, has a door that can’t be opened until very late in the game, so the puzzles throw the mystery out of everyone’s reach.
While today Resident Evil is a franchise well known for its staple series, at the time we had no idea what was going to happen next. Were zombies the result of magic? demons? virus? An underground lab full of bioengineered monsters seems obvious now, but at the time we had absolutely no clue as to where Resident Evil was going. Giant plants? Sharks? Underground caves? The possibilities seemed endless!
One memorable little touch that made the world of Resident Evil feel so real to me was that you could pick up objects and examine their 3D models. You can flip them and zoom in and out, and you’ll often find clues attached to them that you’ll never be able to tell if your inventory items are 2D, like they were in every other game I’d played up to that point. . As with the live videos, this little touch created a sense of a world beyond what I could see as I explored the map.
What made Resident Evil really stand out for me is that it doesn’t have one core mechanic, but every aspect of the game underpins every other. There was fighting, but it wasn’t the main focus. There were puzzles too, but they weren’t Just Puzzle game. Instead, it was a disguised drip-feed of exploration, puzzle-solving, searching for notes, making tricky inventory choices, planning a route, and deciding when to fight or flee from enemies.
Even determining when to save your game was mechanical, as you had to use a valuable consumable (the now-famous ink ribbons) to save your game. It was all very cohesive! There was this disguised friction between scaring me enough that I’d like to give up, but then being too curious to do so. Like a teenager in a horror movie I think “Don’t open that door!” But then he secretly wants them to really do it.
Another thing I liked is that it has different endings based on your actions throughout the game. The score will change based on whether you saved Barry, Rebecca, Chris or Jill. And it wasn’t always clear what you would do that would change the game. I completed the game at least eight times, and on one occasion the hunter’s frog-like enemies appeared as a red type. Another time during the fight against the chief tyrant A.N secondly The tyrant appeared. I had no idea what caused these new encounters, and since this was before I was online, I couldn’t look them up. This really added to Resident Evil’s sense of wonder when I’d go to school, discuss it with friends who were also playing the game, and then eagerly rush home to test out some of the new rumors I’d heard.
Even as an adult, Resident Evil affected me deeply. My latest game, Paper Cut Mansion, is in many ways a love letter to Resident Evil. Obviously, it’s also located in a Gothic mansion, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve also included a 3D model viewer, allowing you to examine objects up close on Resident Evil. Throughout Paper Cut Mansion, you solve puzzles to slowly reveal new parts of the map, while you investigate an unsolved mystery. Most importantly, I chose a live-action trailer as a tribute to Resident Evil’s unforgettable premise!
No other game opened my eyes to the potential of video games the way Resident Evil did, and that’s why I can’t help but love it to this day.